To supplement their often bland military rations, officers of means invested in canteens: small, lidded cases divided into lined compartments harboring glass bottles filled with wine, liquor, and condiments. George Washington is believed to have owned the three canteens featured here. Heavily worn, they may have been acquired during his military service during the French and Indian War or the American Revolution. They were among the handful of original Washington objects left at Mount Vernon when the Association purchased the property in 1860.
Canteen with infrastructure of sawn and planed wood panels and leather covered exterior. The main body is composed of two rectangular front and rear walls, two round shouldered side walls, and a rectangular base; all are joined with iron nails. The interior is lined in fabric, but only fragments remain. The exterior of the front wall is faced in fabric, but only fragments remain. Centered at the top of the front wall is an iron escutcheon; flanking either side is a rectangular copper alloy washer secured to the face with two round copper alloy washers and screws. The exterior of the main body is covered in leather; all of the seams are reinforced with an additional strip of leather. A continuous piece of leather covers the lid, rear wall, base, and bottom of the pocket. The pocket front is a separate piece of leather sewn to the base and side walls; at its center is a reinforced vent; four punched holes flank either side. The leather exterior of the side walls are pieced to the body. Two leather straps cant towards the bottom left hand corner of the side walls, the ends of the straps are nailed into place, a slide chape is anchored to the end of the left hand side strap. The lid is made from two layers of leather: the top layer is made from the continuous piece running along the rear of the case, it also serves as the lid hinge, a second underneath provides strength and shape. The lid is lined in a blue-and-white checked linen. The shaped sides of the lid are pieced to the top. The edge of the lid was restored with light-colored leather that continues from the loss to the lid edge, an additional strip of light colored leather is sewn just above the edge of the top layer of the lid.
Pocket liner constructed of folded lap-joined tinned iron sheets; the walls are made from three pieces of sheet metal, the back wall rises up and is joined to the two forward sloping wall segments that curve around the sides to meet at the center front, the walls terminate in a rolled rim over an iron wire; an iron wire bail handle is present on either side, they rest in a socket made from a once-folded piece of tinned iron sheet that is peened and soldered to the top of the wall.
C.1: Leather, wood, iron, linen, copper alloy
C.2: Iron, lead, tin
Overall (C.1: canteen): 14 1/8 in. x 12 in. x 15 1/2 in. (35.89 cm x 30.48 cm x 39.37 cm)
Overall (C.2: liner): 6 1/4 in. x 11 3/4 in. x 8 1/4 in. (15.88 cm x 29.85 cm x 20.96 cm)
Transferred to the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association through the generosity of John Augustine Washington III, 1860
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